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BGHS Holds First Town Hall Meeting

A low parent turnout was offset by Gassaway's high expectations for an improved school year

Bernard Gassaway, principal of Boys & Girls High School, last night held the school’s first town hall meeting of the 2011/2012 school year.

The meeting of 20 or so administrators and community members was sparsely attended, definitely missing a strong parents showing. But it opened a dialogue on what is needed to better guide BGHS students, while also offer them a chance at a successful future.

Gassaway said, far too many of the young graduates are not prepared for life after high school. He pointed to the need for more resources, skills training, parental involvement and jobs.

“On the one hand, you have the mayor’s Young Men’s Initiative that attempts to address many of the problems out there with our young black boys. But then, on the other hand, you cut jobs,” said Gassaway. “It just doesn’t add up.”

Gassaway showed the small audience a short movie presentation of black history makers, and then went around the room and asked each person to consider their own timeline in history, what has happened so far during their own lifetime. Also, he asked the audience to challenge teens to begin to think in the same way, to establish the idea of them being present and relative in a historical context.

He went over the school’s mission statement and goals. He introduced the school’s new PTA president, and he gave a recent graduate of the school an opportunity to share his senior-year experience as a busy student, scholar and vice president of the student government.

In the town hall meeting invitation letter to the community, Gassaway touted several recent accomplishments and other changes put in place this academic school year, in an effort to turn around the school’s image and academic record, including:

  • A September graduation of more than 50 students who completed summer coursework and passed the required exams to gain their diplomas
  • Legendary coach Ray Haskins has come out of retirement to support Principal Gassaway, in his effort to turnaround Boys and Girls HS. He will coordinate security and assist with the restructuring of the PE Dpt.
  • The new freshman class starting Smart Scholars Program, an early college program taught by the faculty of Long Island University
  • The Scholar Athletic Policy, a radical new guideline for student athletes that puts greater emphasis on scholarship, academic performance and civic responsibility
  • A grant the school received to develop an Urban Farm, along with being selected to participate in a Go Green Solar Energy Initiative
  • A new partnership with Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation in which BSRC will begin providing direct job training and skills development services to our students.

Interestingly, none of these points were discussed at the hour-long meeting. He chose instead to focus on building a rapport with the small group, inspiring reflection and a dialogue in general about the collective responsibility of parents, teachers and administrators to the students.

“One of the things that elementary and middle school principals must begin to do is speak the truth, when it comes to the quality or lack thereof that they see in education,” said Gassaway.

“But this is not just about principals; everybody has to be willing to jump in and say, ‘this is wrong.’ This is about building empowerment for our community so that the community can speak with one voice.

“So that’s our purpose here tonight. It’s not about any one individual.”

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